Many women rely on birth control to avoid pregnancy. However, what kind of effect does it have on fertility, especially when used long term?
Contraception methods like the pill, the IUD (intrauterine device) and Depo-Provera are highly effective at preventing pregnancy. When a woman relies on one of these methods, she could be on it for several years or switch off periodically from one to another. However, there is a concern that once you decide to stop taking the pill or another means of birth control because you want to get pregnant, there may be an issue. Many contraceptives may have outdated information, so it’s hard to tell what might occur once you go off of the one you prefer. Doctors state that there are a few exceptions, but that most often, once you stop taking the contraceptive method of your choice, your fertility will return right back to normal. It’s useful to compare what effects this can have on your fertility to gain a better perspective.
How Can Hormonal Birth Control Adversely Affect Fertility?
Prolonged use of certain methods can adversely affect your fertility in a few ways. These effects can be long-term and should be considered if you are planning to conceive at any point in the future:
• Disruption of the Menstrual Cycle:
The pill in particular, when taken long-term, can create a disruption of the normal menstrual cycle. Even after a woman has stopped taking oral contraceptives, after long-term use, she may see considerable differences in her second and third cycles. Cycle disturbances can also result in the woman experiencing a shorter luteal phase. The luteal phase is the period of time during a women’s monthly cycle in which a fertilized egg has the chance to implant in the uterus, resulting in pregnancy. Generally, cycle disturbances after stopping the pill are reversible but can take up to nine months or longer to go back to normal.
• Hormone Imbalances:
Contraceptive methods like the pill can affect fertility by changing the balance of hormones in the body. Synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone are introduced into the body, which prevents the body’s natural hormones from functioning normally.
• Disrupted Ovulation:
Contraceptives that include synthetic hormones work to prevent ovulation to prevent pregnancy. As a result, when the method is used long term, ovulation may not occur normally after the woman stops using it. This is because the ovaries essentially forget how to properly function.
• Cervical Mucus Changes:
Cervical mucus must be watery or egg white in nature in order for sperm to travel to an egg to fertilize it. Certain contraceptives make the cervical mucus thicker or stickier so that sperm can’t survive to fertilize an egg.
• Uterine Lining Changes:
Some types of contraceptives create uterine lining changes, which makes it inhospitable to a fertilized egg implanting within it.
Taking these adverse effects into consideration, if you are still within childbearing age and plan on having children, be aware, that it can take up some time to come back to a normal cycle, especially if you use methods like Depo-Provera. Relying on barrier methods such as a diaphragm or condoms is often a better choice and won’t affect your long-term fertility.